If you’re a citizen of the United States, you've most likely visited an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet. If you’ve ever visited a Southern Church when they were serving a “Potluck Dinner,” you’ve, in effect, experienced an All-You-Can-Eat meal.
I had the privilege of serving a Southern Church in Oconee, Georgia, the Antioch Christian Church, and I would gain at least a couple of pounds every time they had a potluck. The women of that good community could prepare a feast fit for a king. I miss that church and their wonderful potlucks.
One of the great things about an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet or a Southern Potluck is we can go through the line and pick out what we want and skip whatever we don’t want. Most of the time, we want everything and have to stop when our plates runneth over. Occasionally, however, there’s an item on the serving line we don’t like or want. I’ve been to a few Potlucks (not in Oconee) when a good sister brought boiled okra. Personally, I don’t believe the Good Lord intended for okra to be boiled (fried maybe, but not boiled)… it turns into a gooey slimy mess that has no appeal to my pallet. I know, I know… I’m from the South… how could I NOT like boiled okra?! I guess I just don’t like slimy foods, (if you like boiled okra – you haven’t sinned but I do seriously question your taste buds and their functionality – LOL). The great thing about Buffets and Potlucks… we get to choose what we want and what we don’t want.
All too often, we take that same mentality with us into our Christian lives. We want all the good stuff at the table of God as we feast on His word… heaven, eternal life, streets of gold, pearly gates, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death, direct fellowship with God Himself, and so many more magnificent things that are laid out before us in the banquet of God’s Word. All of these things are designed to nourish us, give us hope, and grow us spiritually, however, sometimes, we come to something on the table that God has placed before us and, to us, it’s a lot like boiled okra… we don’t like it… so... we just skip it.
For instance, we feast on scriptures that point us to heaven and eternal life, we embrace the commands to love God and love one another, we relish and readily receive the commands to feed the poor and clothe the naked and destitute, and we willingly visit the sick and shut-ins. Though we may not perform those commands flawlessly, we still try because they are somewhat palatable to us… BUT some commands - we just skip. I call it “Boiled Okra Christianity.”
Specifically, the commands that tell us to evangelize the world and our neighbors… a lot of Christians simply skip. To many, that command is like boiled okra… they don’t like it and they will not partake. What happens most often is boiled okra Christians run to the “Talent & Gift” argument and declare emphatically, “Well, that’s just not my talent… that’s not my gift!” They then walk away from that particular item on the table and consider themselves justified because evangelism is not their gift or talent. Such logic falls to pieces when examined closely, here in this world, and I’m convinced will also fall apart at judgment day.
We must understand that God’s commands are not optional… we can’t just opt out of the commands we don’t like or are not comfortable with. For example, God’s word commands us not to be murderers, adulterers, homosexuals and says emphatically that they which do such things will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21). No faithful Christian would claim that it’s okay to skip the commands that direct us NOT to live such lives and at the same time affirm we can opt out of other commands such as evangelism. All of God’s commands are given to be obeyed, they are not given to fill up pages in our Bibles. We may not obey them flawlessly, but we must obey them consistently and with diligence motivated by our love for God.
We must also understand God’s commands are not beyond our abilities to accomplish. It would be wrong for God to command us to do something that is beyond our ability to do. God would not command us to love one another unless it was possible for us to do so. He would not command us to visit the sick, afflicted, and shut-ins unless it were possible for us to do so. John made this statement,
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” I John 5:3.
The Good News Bible puts it this way,
“For our love for God means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not too hard for us…”
If God commands us to do something, we MUST have the ability to accomplish it.
I hate boiled okra… to quote a slightly modified Dr. Seuss, “I will not eat it in a house, I will not eat it with a mouse, I will not eat it in a box, I will not eat it with a fox, I will not eat it here or there, I will not eat it anywhere...". It's a good thing for me that God has not commanded me to eat boiled okra… BUT if He did, I would have to come up with a means by which to TRY and accomplish His command and eventually, consistently do so. I might have to mix it with sugar or dump it into a stew, but I would have to, by reason of my love for God, figure out a way to fulfill His will and keep His boiled okra command.
Selective obedience, in reality, is selective disobedience.
God would not command us to engage in evangelism unless it was possible for us to do so. As faithful Christians, we MUST be involved in evangelism and missions in some format… some can give, some can go, some can send… but ALL God’s people must be involved in fulfilling THE GREAT COMMISSION.
Missions and evangelism is not boiled okra and it is not optional… It is love for God and love for the lost.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20